‘Brighton and Hove council homes being left empty too long’ – The Argus

COUNCIL homes are being left empty for too long, according to councillors and residents.

Concerns about empty homes – known as voids – were raised at a series of housing management panel meetings last week.

More council houses and flats have been left empty and they have been left empty for longer, the meetings were told.

The figures were included in a performance report presented to Brighton and Hove City Council’s housing management panels, made up of councillors and tenant and leaseholder representatives.

The time taken to re-let properties has become a growing concern since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest performance report said that the average re-let time was 89 days from October to December last year – the third quarter of the 2021-22 financial year.

This was worse than the 66-day average in the second quarter from July to September and much worse than the council’s target of 21 days.

The council said that sometimes contractors had to carry out major work. In such cases, the gap between lets had stretched from 206 days in the second quarter to 223 in the third quarter.

The Argus: Concerns about empty council homes have been raised throughout the pandemicConcerns about empty council homes have been raised throughout the pandemic

And 293 council homes were sitting empty from October to December, up from 273 from July to September.

Ardingly Court resident David Spafford raised his concerns about the number of empty homes in his block even after major work had been completed.

He said that he had been “banging on about it for a year” and at the end of last year there were seven empty flats in the block, in High Street, Brighton. The number was now “down to five”.

Mr Spafford said: “Things are not improving. We are now up to 89 days for a standard refurb and up to eight months for major works. It’s really not good enough.”

Senior housing officer Ododo Dafe said that the situation had happened “through circumstance”, partly through the process of the council bringing repairs and maintenance staff in-house and partly because covid had meant more staff had been off sick or self-isolating.

She said: “Other organisations have struggled with voids in a similar way that we have and haven’t had the issues of in-sourcing the repairs service.

“We’re not satisfied with our performance. We want to get the homes fixed up and let as quickly as possible for all sorts of reasons – financial, homelessness.

“Neighbours having empty properties next to them is not great. There are all manner of reasons we want to get this done – and we will. We are now on that road for recovery, 100 per cent, for sure.”

The Argus: The council say progress is being made on the issueThe council say progress is being made on the issue

Ms Dafe added that the number of homes let in the current quarter would show progress.

Conservative councillor Dee Simson, who represents Woodingdean ward, had raised lengthy voids a number of times over the past year.

But she said that a property that she initially thought could be turned around quickly had required major work on the roof.

Ms Dafe told her that most homes requiring major work needed new bathrooms and kitchens to bring them up to the “decent homes standard”.